Some days you just shouldn’t look at the news. I mean, you shouldn’t even peek at it out of the corner of your eye in a squinty way. Some days the news just seems to be one malicious belly laugh of a story after another.
A woman in Belfast has rabies. You know, the one they used to run all the adverts about back in the 70s… (They always scared me witless, when I was a kid. I was convinced that if a dog so much as farted in my general vicinity I’d catch it).
The winter vomiting virus (I didn’t know viruses could vomit) is threatening to spread rapidly across England “unless people are sensible and stay at home”. At Christmas. With all that shopping to do. And the partying. Fat chance.
But, of course, it isn’t all bad news. No, really, it isn’t. Oh, all right, then, have it your way. It is all bad — but some news is less bad. For example, tomorrow should see me hitting 20,000 words with Tomorrow Will Come and Will Be Just Like Today. Granted, that means that I still have somewhere in the region of 140,000 words to go — but only a couple of weeks ago I still had 150,000 words ahead of me. See?
Joking aside, all being well I’ll hit my aforementioned pre-Christmas target of 20,000 words tomorrow. I’ll then be focusing on tidying up what I’ve written so far, sorting my notes ready for the new year and generally concentrating on trying to switch off from it for a while. I’m looking forward to the break, even whilst I’m not looking forward to the break! Novels such as Tomorrow Will Come… can tend to be rather demanding. They want to be written. They want to dictate the workrate. It can be hard to resist. But sometimes it’s very important that you do.
If I return to work before the first of January 2009 you have my permission to call me nasty names and stuff.
“Barack Obama will move swiftly to unpick many of what he sees as the most egregious acts of the Bush administration when he enters the White House in January, including restrictions on stem cell research and moves to allow oil drilling in wilderness areas, a leading member of his transition team said yesterday.”
Whilst I applaud all of these intentions, the one that really stands out for me is the easing/possible removal of restrictions on stem cell research. This sets the tone, I believe, for the impending Obama administration’s attitude to science in general, and it’s one that leaves me feeling hugely relieved. For too long the religious right has dominated and limited one of the most scientifically and technologically able countries in the world — superstition and self-righteousness, disguised quite crudely as morality, stalling advancement and (let’s not be coy about it) ultimately killing people.
Today we awoke to what many feel is a safer world — a world which will soon be led by the better of two men, Barack Obama.
A time for celebration, indeed, a time to look at what might have been and give thanks in whichever way you see fit. We none of us, I’m sure, believe that the road ahead — for Obama, or ourselves — will be entirely smooth. There will be difficulties, he will make mistakes (some of them possibly quite grave), but I feel quite certain that Obama’s actions will be measured more carefully than those we have seen from Bush over the past eight years.
I’ve no doubt that I will be on some occasions one of his harshest critics, but nonetheless I today applaud the choice made by the vast majority of my American friends. He’s the best man for the job.
At a loss for something to blog about today, I thought, instead of simply rambling on about absolutely nothing, I would instead share with you one of my favourite British comedy classics. (It was this clip or the “Jesus was English” clip — but I thought I’d save that one for Christmas! )
I know — the very idea of pairing the words “blogging” and “diplomacy” in the same sentence would, on far too many occasions, seem quite absurd, oxymoronic, even. Some bloggers simply wouldn’t know diplomacy if it crept up behind them and, choosing its words very carefully and measuring their far-reaching consequences beforehand, went “BOO!”
I was therefore especially sceptical when I read today on the US Department of State’s official blog that the US is engaging in “blogging diplomacy”. Apparently, the general idea seems to be that a number of multilingual trained monkeys otherwise known as the US Digital Outreach Team log on to blogs in unfriendly countries and push back against alleged misinformation regarding the United States.
A good thing, I (possibly) hear you say? Well, in some respects, I suppose it may be. I do firmly believe that the Internet is at the forefront of empowering people by providing access to facts that they might otherwise be denied. The problem, for me, lies in the fact that these people — the US Digital Outreach Team — identify themselves when posting on other people’s blogs as working for the United States Government, something I suppose they naturally have to do. But what self-respecting Iranian political blogger is really going to accept any assertions that they might make as having any kind of validity or authority? Making a point, correcting inaccurate information is all well and good, but this seems to me to have little, if anything, to do with “diplomacy”.
From where I’m sitting, it more closely resembles blogging propaganda. And if it looks like that to me, well, I’m sure those with a rather more radical outlook won’t be as easily swayed as James K. Glassman, Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, might hope.